Some people have been asking me how to build solid curved parts using StairDesigner. To answer I have made a short video that shows how to use StairDesigner DXF files and a 3D solid modeller in Progecad or Autocad to get the block size and face moulds needed to mark out a curved handrail or string.

I find that using a solid modeller is faster less error prone and more accurate that doing everything in 2D whether it be on paper or in CAD.

The method I outline in this video is based on traditional European methods so for English and American carpenters used to the tangent method it may seem a bit obscure. But I also use the 3D solid modeller when I set out tangent handrails and it’s also very handy.

I use the tangent method extensively for setting out wreathed rails, not only moulded solid rails but also rounded and twisted rails as seen in my article on Curves stair parts here:

How to build curved stairs and handrails

I guess that the number of people today looking to build solid wood wreathed rails and strings are few and far between as this craft is today indeed a dying art.

It use to be the very height of a wood worker’s craft to build wreathed rails, this was when men pushed themselves on to excellence simply for the creative pleasure of inventing something new. Surpassing one self and moving forward into unexplored ground was a challenge men undertook for the sake of itself and not only to earn more money, buy a bigger car or look better that the neighbour.

The world has certainly changed quickly these last 30 years and our immense creative abilities have been channelled towards a technical progress that instead of creating a more human world, in my option have, in many cases hindered and destroyed our real creativity and aspiration towards beauty and achievement.

In my everyday work as a stair builder I have always strived to use modern technology as another tool in the workshop.

In any real in life on has to be clear on the goals one’s aiming at.

In craftwork the goal is the creation of a object that has to balance utility, beauty and economy.

Firstly the final object has to serve it’s purpose, then it has to be as perfect in it’s form as possible given the circumstances and last but not least, it has to fit the budget.

Utility and beauty are noble objectives that quickly send our egos rocketing to the sky. Economy is a more humbling objective that should keep us well rooted to the ground.

As with all tools technology is only of value when it’s being used to progress in the right direction.

A tool is only useful when it’s at the service of a higher goal.

I would even say that the man holding the tool is only useful when he himself is a tool working towards a higher goal.

Maybe the higher goal for a craftsman is his craft. The goal of building the object that assembles together in harmony for this one and unique time the three objectives of utility, beauty and economy.

Using technology, that has a beauty in itself of course, I try not to forget my goal, and strive to find the balance between utility, beauty and economy.

Here’s a video where I show grossly how I use high tech CAD to simplify the design process of solid wreathed handrails.

The techniques I use here are based on traditional European techniques that have been around unchanged for hundreds of years.

I also use CAD in a similar way to set out handrails using the English tangent system.

CAD has the great advantage of minimizing the economical aspect by making the design faster, smoother and more efficient.

Hope you enjoy the marriage of modern and tradition.

I use StairDesigner stair software to adjust the flow of the curved parts so that everything fits nicely together.

If you have found this article interesting or maybe not, please leave a comment and let me know.


  1. Alick Munro on January 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    very nice.
    by the way, I caint load SD due to the fact that I loaded on another computor [obsolete] some time ago, transfered info to this computor and now this computor thinks that it already has a copy and won’t let me down load. I am looking for the source of the Ming Dynesty Elm wood, but unfortunately it was also on the other computor. I just thought of another way to find it possibly.

  2. admin on January 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Alick,
    I just sent you a download link to your email address.
    Hope it works OK.

    all the best
    @Alick Munro

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